While Yankee blogs were all atwitter this weekend discussing the Steinbrenner brothers article in this quarter’s edition of The Times’ Play magazine, a different story with New York parallels caught my eye.
Joe Nocera, one of the paper’s top business columnists, explores the idea of the Bad Owner. Using two basketball owners — our Knicks’ own James Dolan and the Los Angeles Clippers owners Donald Sterling — as examples, Nocera explores how sports franchise owners get rich without really trying. Outside of real estate, he says, it really is the easiest way to free money.
“To own a franchise in any of the three major sports — football, baseball or basketball — is to enter a club in which it is nearly impossible to come away a financial loser,” he writes.
Nocera’s premise is a sound one: Each sports league has a limited number of franchises and significant barriers to entry. Namely, an interested buyer or group of investors has to come up with a lot of money and find a franchise owner who wants to cash out. Meanwhile, league officials — whether David Stern is behind the helm or Bud Selig is steering the ship — are always trying to improve the league’s image, and teams will rise to the top.
More important to a team’s bottom line than even success is geography and media market. “Certainly a good owner can do things that add value to a franchise. But far more important is whether the team is in a big media market and plays in a stadium with modern, high-priced luxury boxes,” Nocera writes.
Sterling bought the Clippers for $13.5 million in 1984. The team has been terrible since then, and now Nocera figures Sterling could command in excess of $400 million. In New York, the value of the Knicks continues to increase, and as the team struggles and more potential investors make noises about buying the team, the value of the franchise will climb even further. They don’t win on the court, but they win where it counts for the Dolans.
Baseball, of course, has its fair share of bad owners. Some — Peter Angelos comes to mind — seemingly want to win but are too meddlesome; others — Nocera cites Carl Pohlad of the Twins — don’t care to spend an iota of their own copious amounts of money to churn a better product on the field. Yet, when Carl Pohlad or his heirs decide to sell the Twins, they will more than recoup their initial $36 million investment in the team. Why bother working to win if simply owning the team is an obscene money-maker?
Enter the Steinbrenners. As Jonathan Mahler’s article notes, the Yankees have indeed been an obscene money-making venture just like any sports franchise. King George bought the team in 1973 for a pittance: approximately $10 million. Now, the team is valued at around $1 billion with a $300 million cable franchise a part of its global entertainment network. With a new stadium with those high-priced luxury suites in the world’s biggest media market, the Yankees are a money-printing machine.
As tough as it is to embrace the Steinbrenners, then, as tough as it is to overlook George’s shortcomings and his blatantly illegal activities, it’s tough to ignore the impact the family has had on the team. The Steinbrenners have a burning desire to win; mostly, as Mahler intimates, it stems from some tough love issues the men in the family seem to have with their respective fathers.
No matter though; the fans benefit from the owners’ desire to win. The Yanks would still be a very profitable franchise if the team was merely okay. The team would still be worth nearly $1 billion if they won every few years instead of every year.
In a way though, the Yankees are in a unique position in the game. Because they are so successful both on the field and on paper, because they have owners who are willing to invest and spend to win, they have emerged as the leader in baseball. For better or worse, the Yankees, through their revenue sharing contributions, are funding their opponents. They set the bar for player salaries; they set the bar for coaching salaries; they, much to the dismay of everyone else in the game, can set the agenda.
But as I look south from Yankee Stadium to Madison Square Garden and watch the 18-42 Knicks slump away another season, I wouldn’t want it any other way in the Bronx.
Lowry’s name was tossed around this winter when the Yanks were supposedly shopping Hideki Matsui to San Fran, and while young and cheap lefthanders are highly desirable, it looks like the Yanks may have dodged a serious bullet. Here’s Lowry’s pitching line through two Spring Training outings:
2.1 IP, 2 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 12 BB, 1 K, 3 WP (at least 2 of which went to the screen)
“The Thing” is ugly. Steve Blass had it, Rick Ankiel famously had it, and a bunch of other guys through the years have had it. I truly hope Lowry’s just really, really rusty. · (25) ·
According to a statement issued through the Yankees by Kay Murcer, beloved Bronx broadcasting Bobby Murcer is resting after a brain biopsy procedure this morning. Murcer could be released from the hospital as soon as Tuesday, but results of the biopsy won’t be available until later this week. · (2) ·
Word out of Mets camp is that Carlos Delgado will attempt to play through a hip injury. Delgado, 35, is coming off his worse season in the Bigs and isn’t getting younger or much healthier. How does this impact the Yanks? Because the Mets will surely look at the Nationals’ Nick Johnson as a potential first base option, and Nats’ GM Jim Bowden knows this. It simply complicates the Nick Johnson sweepstakes that are raging in my head. · (40) ·
Commenter Rob brought up a point in our post about Melky. The quote was that we are “setting [ourselves] up for an embarrassing fall should Melky prove to be legit.” I considered responding directly to that comment, but I wanted to clear the air with everyone.
We don’t wish Melky ill. He wears pinstripes; therefore, we hope for the best. But from what we’ve seen, it doesn’t appear that he’ll live up to those PECOTA comparisons to Bernie Williams and Carlos Beltran.
This is the entire point of our posts on Melky. Mike, Ben, and I have come to a consensus that Melky is likely best served as a fourth outfielder. Many decry this position, citing his defense (which we’re not completely sold on, though there’s no denying his arm) and relative success at a young age as an indication that he’ll improve and become an average or above-average center fielder.
I will not argue with that position. If we think it’s likely that Melky is a 4th outfielder in a long-term sense, then it’s entirely possible that he ends up being a bit better than that and can serve as a league-average centerfielder.
I’ve made clear my position that the Yankees should be focusing on superior talent at the premium positions. That is, second base, shortstop, catcher, and center field. I don’t think Melky represents superior talent, hence I’m not so hot on him. But he does have some value as a league average CFer.
So, in short, we believe that Melky will be a slightly below average center fielder. Some people think he can be average or slightly above, and I’m not going to argue with them. It’s possible, but I like seeing superior talent in those premium positions, hence my dislike of Melky. At this point, I think that seeing Melky as the next Bernie or Beltran is seeing things with rose-colored glasses.
And that really encompasses at least my position on Melky. Until something happens — that is, we see the results on the field — I don’t think there’s much more to say on the issue.
Despite an acrimonious divorce following the 2006 season, the Yankees still appreciate all that Bernie Williams gave to the game. To that end, they would like to honor him before the Stadium closes down in seven months. “Obviously, Bernie is special to us,” Hank said yesterday. No date has been set for Bernie Williams Day, but that is sure to be a hot ticket. · (7) ·
Well, the collective you must be wondering what happened to Melky Cabrera and River Ave. Blues. After an off-season in which we seemingly took turns expressing our doubts of Melky, we cooled the Cabrera criticism for the last few weeks.
Worry not; Melky — and the Yanks’ center field spot — is back in the news. This time, we’re not the only ones noting some doubts over the long-term viability of Melky Cabrera. In a PeteAbe piece, Brian Cashman notes that Melky doesn’t have a center field stranglehold:
But while general manager Brian Cashman has locked second baseman Robinson Cano into a long-term contract and has staked his own reputation on the abilities of young pitchers Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, he’s not yet prepared to invest as heavily in the 23-year-old Cabrera. “Melky has to fight for what he has,” Cashman said. “I can’t stand here and tell you he’s going to be our center fielder moving forward. That’s up to him.”
Cabrera hit .273 with eight homers and 73 RBI last season, taking over for Damon in early June. But there were concerns. Cabrera hit .180 in September before going 3-for-16 in the division series against Cleveland. His on-base percentage fell from .360 in 2006 to .327 last season…
It wouldn’t be wise to get comfortable. In 24-year-old Brett Gardner and 21-year-old Austin Jackson, the Yankees have one player on the verge of being ready for the majors and another who is moving quickly in that direction.
While Gardner is less of a threat to Melky than Austin Jackson is, the Melk Man is right to work hard for that spot. Prospects are a-knockin’.
But despair not, Melky Lovers. As E.J. Fagan noted at Pending Pinstripes, Melky’s PECOTA comparables are promising. E.J., urging as to wait another season before passing judgment, notes that Carlos Beltran and Bernie Williams, to name a few, are high on the list of comparables to the young Mr. Cabrera. While much of that has to do with the fact that Beltran and Williams are two of the few outfielders to break into the Majors at such a young age as Melky did, Cabrera could develop into a top-flight player. We just don’t quite see it yet.
Feel free to hate away on our Melky hating. Much like Brian Cashman, we too are expecting Melky to fight for what he currently has and hopefully improve in the process.
We’ve added a neat little feature to the RAB experience today, an Organizational Depth Chart. It runs 5 deep for the players at each position, and can always be accessed via the link up top. Everything else you need to know about it explained in the page’s intro.
Update: Pitcher listing has been shortened due to popular demand.
The Baseball Tonight crew just unloaded on Hank for his comments about ESPN being full of Red Sox fans, claiming he doesn’t know what goes on behind the scenes. John Kruk even invited Hank up to Bristol for the look-see.
Immediately after that, Kruk said Beckett was a HOF pitcher (based on four playoff starts) and Gammons said Varitek was more important to the Red Sox than any other player on any other team in the game. They also said the Yanks will struggle with two kids (Hughes & IPK) in the rotation, neglecting to mention that Buchholz & Lester will be Boston’s rotation because of the injury to Curt Schilling. That was after Donald Duck picked Donald Duck to win both the AL MVP and Cy Young awards. I’m dead serious.
Update: Goofy just picked Pluto and Mickey to win the NL Cy Young & MVP awards, respectively, but oh snap! Donald Duck sabotaged it and it looks like he’ll bring home those awards too. Karl Ravech is in mid-season form, cracking snarky little comments that manage to go over everyone else’s head. What the hell happened to ESPN?
FYI – Joba will be on in a bit. Hopefully he’ll give Kruk some double-chin music. · (25) ·